26 04 2008

Stepfather held over murder of disabled man is released

By Jerome Taylor

26 April 2008

The Independent


Police investigating the killing of James Hughes in Redditch released two men arrested on suspicion of his murder – and the disabled man’s father made an emotional tribute to his son, calling the 22-year-old “the most beautiful of Mother Earth’s creations”.

The body of Mr Hughes’ mother, 39-year-old Heather Wardle, was found on Monday with a ligature around her neck.

Neighbours said Mr Hughes’ stepfather, Brian Kirby, and an unidentified youth had been questioned by police after Mr Hughes’ body was found in a suitcase in the back garden of the family home in the Church Hill area of Redditch on Wednesday. Police confirmed last night that the body was in a “decomposed condition”.

Mr Hughes was severely disabled with the mental age of a toddler and needed 24-hour care. He was reported missing a week ago today, the same day as his mother. Police launched a search for Mr Hughes and Ms Wardle. They found the son’s body just 48 hours after schoolchildren came across his mother’s body in nearby woodlands.

Superintendent Jane Horwood, of West Mercia Constabulary, said: “I can confirm that both people in custody have been released without charges this afternoon. They have both co-operated fully with our inquiries. Our investigation into the deaths of Heather Wardle and James Hughes are continuing and forensic examinations of the family home at Loxley Close are ongoing.”

The release of Mr Kirby came as Mr Hughes’ father, Paul, 42, released a statement saying the death of his son had left a “massive hole in his life”. He said: “Myself and my family would like to take this opportunity at this most shattering of times to pay tribute to our beloved James

“My son was the most beautiful of Mother Earth’s creations that I have had the privilege to meet. His aura of happiness and mischief was plain for all to see.

“[James] taught us that the strong should look after the weak and so much about what was important and what was not important in life. He was a happy-go-lucky soul and always had a smile on his face. He brought out the best in people he met, which is why I think it’s affected so many people the way it has.”

Neighbours said James had not been seen for some time before his mother was reported missing and that the social services bus that usually took him to a care centre during the day had stopped coming weeks ago.

Mr Hughes’ mother shared the family home with Mr Kirby, 36, whom she married six years ago, and their two young sons. Her 17-year-old son, Daniel, from another relationship, also shared the family home.

While police are investigating Mr Hughes’ death as murder, they are also treating his mother’s death as suspicious. Exhaustive forensic examinations at the home of Ms Wardle and Mr Kirby are continuing, police said yesterday, as they admitted it may be weeks before they are able to determine exactly how Mr Hughes died.




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